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We ended up putting away a pound or two of stone crab claws at a picnic table outside a fish market before meandering down the Keys in our little car and taking in the sights.
When we found a state park full of coral fossils exposed in a defunct quarry, Simone geeked out for an hour, using a laminated guidebook from the ranger’s office to explain to me what we were looking at.
It wasn’t until we were on the boat that I realized nobody else in the dive party had come up with us — the gesture had been, “Simone is low on air, so we’re going up.
Do you want to stay with the party, or come with us?
Our dive guide was a college student studying underwater archeology, so she and Simone bonded pretty much right away on all the nerdy things.
And she was stoked to be with us on Simone’s first post-certification dives.
”I’d had enough air in my tanks for another 20 minutes underwater, but it was too late to change my mind.
Instead, I jumped off the side of the ship and splashed around in the sea while we waited for other divers to return, , and because we didn’t have a beach to enjoy on this trip anyway, that turned out to be my only time to be playful in the warm ocean water.
But I noted the relief in her sigh as she yanked her left foot out of the leg of the suit.
Simone didn’t have strong feelings about the adventure either way, which was maddening and, well, expected.
So there we were, driving down the Overseas Highway with the windows open, bellies full of fresh mango and a guanabana milkshake from the Robert is Here fruit stand, a Spanish radio station’s latin pop cranked to be heard above the wind mussing our hair, Simone translating song titles and snippets of lyrics, both of us smiling and laughing.
The next dive that day and the two the day after were easy and gorgeous, in warm water and dazzling sun, swimming over historical shipwrecks and exploring reefs.
Because that’s how it is with Simone — get her past that first bit of doubt, and she settles down, letting her natural gifts restore her confidence.
The next morning, after a Waffle House breakfast, we found Simone a lycra bodysuit (recommendation from a close friend of mine), and that afternoon she was able to slip the rented wetsuit right on without fuss or stress.